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Written by Ellen Klages
Published by Viking, Penguin group
'The Hill' is a place not yet on the map, away in the middle of nowhere, where a bunch of brilliant scientists are working on a 'top secret' project for a gadget requisitioned by the US government. Nobody knows where it is. So when Dewey Kerrigan, a brilliant and bookish 11 year old extremely interested in the mechanics of how things work, has to make the journey there to join her father Jim Kerrigan, who is one of those brilliant scientists, a series of officials transport her there, no one person knowing exactly where her destination is. En route, she befriends Dick Feynman, who is also part of the team, and whom she strikes up a conversation with, over the intricacies of the radio she is putting together from junk.
When she finally reaches there, The Hill turns out to be a bleak place overrun with the army guarding everything. Of course, the scientists are all there with their families, and there is a school for their children, where Dewey is enrolled. She soon realizes that she is the only nerdy girl around, and one of the two children who has no one to hang out with. The other one being Susan, 'Suze the Truck', who has gained somewhat of a reputation for being pushy, who has an air of bravado, but who secretly wishes she could be friends with somebody. Her wish soon comes true, but not in the way she wants.
Dewey's father Jim has to go away to Washington DC for something important, and the motherless girl is taken in by Susan's parents, the Gordons, both scientists at The Hill. What happens next? Do Susan and Dewey manage to bury their differences and come to a truce, even a friendship? What are all the scientists working on that is so top secret? What is the gadget? Why is Suze's mother who is working on the gadget so worried about it being all wrong? What is that worries Jim Kerrigan, about the US collaborating with scientists from Nazi Germany? What were the rumours about the very air igniting if the gadget was tested, and what, exactly, was the 'test' that is done in the middle of the desert on the 16th of July, 1945, the bright light illuminating the night sky, that they all view in the middle of the night from a safe distance? And what is the green glass sea?
Set against the backdrop of WW2 and the Manhattan Project, this is the story of the making of the atomic bomb from the point of view of the children of the scientists working on it. Real people like Richard Feynman and J. Robert Oppenheimer feature along with the fictional Gordons and Jim Kerrigan. The book spans the time from early 1943 and ends on the day the first bomb is dropped on Hiroshima. Though there is no talk of the actual destruction caused, the book still chills because of the knowledge we have about the bomb, and is one of the best children's books on the subject, and winner of the Scott O'Dell Award. There is also a sequel, White Sands, Red Menace, that is worth picking up.
Today, 6th August is the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Japan.